State officials are set to hold a hearing on Monday to decide whether to proceed with a grievance case that Konstantinos Diamantis, a former state deputy budget director, filed against Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration last year.
The hearing will bring to a head a conflict that has been simmering since last fall and threatens to dredge up past disputes that allegedly existed within the governor’s administration.
The case stems from Lamont’s decision to remove Diamantis from his appointed position as the deputy director of the state Office of Policy and Management on Oct. 28, 2021, and Diamantis’s subsequent decision to retire from his other post as the director of the state Office of School Construction Grants and Review, a classified job that offered civil service protections.
At that time, Diamantis was told that he was being placed on paid administrative leave pending a state ethics investigation into his daughter’s hiring at the Division of Criminal Justice, while Connecticut’s chief state’s attorney was seeking pay raises for state prosecutors.
His suspension and eventual exit from state government also occurred just eight days after a federal grand jury subpoenaed Lamont’s administration seeking records and emails related to Diamantis, the State Pier project in New London and the state’s school construction grant program.
Diamantis filed the grievance accusing top state officials of mistreating the former OPM secretary, Melissa McCaw, in November. The state moved to dismiss the case in June.
On its face, the upcoming hearing should be rather simple: Officials with the Employees’ Review Board, which is tasked with reviewing cases involving suspensions, demotions and other state personnel matters, are being asked to throw out Diamantis’s case.
As part of that process, the review board has been asked to determine if Diamantis should have been able to rescind his resignation and regain his job as the director of the school construction program — as he attempted to do last fall.
OPM and the state Department of Administrative Services argue Diamantis was not entitled to return to that job because he resigned while under investigation for his daughter’s hiring and while facing possible disciplinary action.
As a result, the state agencies argue he was not in “good standing,” which is required to resume employment with the state.
Diamantis and his attorneys disagree on that point, and they argue that he was not officially facing any disciplinary action in October — even if he was the focus of an ethics investigation.
Diamantis further alleges that he was “strongarmed” out of his position and forced into a “hasty retirement.” His initial decision to step down, he claims, was made while he was “emotionally distraught” and while “operating off of bad advice” from state officials.
Diamantis and his attorneys are also trying to make the hearing about much more than the state rules surrounding retirements and resignations.
The case could take on a life of its own due to some of the allegations that Diamantis leveled in his initial 24-page complaint and more recent filings.
In those records, Diamantis contends that he was placed on paid leave and subjected to the ethics investigation only because he spoke out against “racial and gender injustice and cronyism.”
The complaint specifically accused Joshua Geballe, the former DAS commissioner, and Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, of mistreating and disrespecting McCaw, who served as the director of OPM until earlier this year.
In a recent brief, Diamantis claimed that those members of Lamont’s administration “harassed” him and his coworkers, created a “hostile work environment” and initiated “baseless investigations into his conduct.”
In response, the attorneys for the state have pointed out that Diamantis never raised any of those issues before he was pushed out of his position at OPM, and they argued that those allegations were not relevant to the case in front of the Employees’ Review Board.
“It is notable that the grievant first leveled these meritless allegations only after
learning he had been relieved as Deputy Secretary of OPM and that his own conduct had come under intense scrutiny,” they wrote in a recent brief. “The grievant’s attempt to deflect attention from the pertinent facts in this case — that he voluntarily resigned not in good standing — should be rejected and the grievance should be dismissed.”
It will ultimately be up to the Employees’ Review Board to decide how to consider the various allegations.
The hearing is currently set to take place over a video conference at 10 a.m. on Monday.